She is a cooking teacher, blogger, and now the author of the award-winning cookbook Ozlem’s Turkish Table. She is Ozlem Warren, and I am proud to have her here for an interview. Her cookbook features easy-to-follow Turkish recipes and raises funds to help earthquake victims in Turkey.
Disclosure: This sponsored interview features an inspiring woman helping her home country by donating a percentage of signed copies of her book to relief efforts there. She is an entrepreneur whose cooking talent is immense.
Interview with Turkish cookbook author Ozlem Warren
Ozlem kindly takes time away from her popular blog Ozlem’s Turkish Table, to answer my questions on food. In this interview, she talks about growing up in Antakya and the delicious Turkish dishes in her cookbook named after her blog.
The book Ozlem’s Turkish Table was named “Best in the World” at the 2020 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in Heritage for Turkey. It also got an Honorary Mention at the 2020 Forward INDIES Book of the Year Awards.
Ozlem Warren’s fundraising efforts are admirable. For the signed copies available through her publisher, 25% goes toward raising funds for those devastated by the recent earthquake in Turkey. With over 300 books sold to date, she has raised £8,496.00 so far. Get the book Ozlem’s Turkish Table and the apron that Ozlem is wearing in the photo above from the publisher GB Publishing and support the relief efforts now.
Want to find out more about the author and cooking instructor? Let’s get to the interview with Ozlem Warren!
Hello Ozlem Warren! What inspired the book Ozlem’s Turkish Table?
My debut cookery book has been a dream of mine for over 15 years. I have been living abroad now for over 20 years, first in the USA then in the UK and realized most people associated Turkish cuisine with kebabs. Through my blog and cookery classes worldwide, I aimed to teach authentic, diverse Turkish cookery with delicious, wholesome recipes.
I never forget, the first day I taught Turkish cookery at Central Market Cooking School in Austin, Texas; folks asked me where they can buy my cookery book. I said I don’t have one yet but will write one! I am ever grateful for my readers’ encouragement, support and belief in me.
My blog, Ozlem’s Turkish Table, acted as my “online cookery book”; the more I published recipes, my reader base has grown, hence the interest for a book. I also wanted my cookery book to focus on Southern Turkish cookery, especially the cuisine of my hometown Antakya, as not many cookery books so far explored that region abroad.
Antakya’s cuisine is as diverse and cosmopolitan as the people that call this city their home. Influences from the Levantine cuisine is especially evident with our shared love of meze, and I wanted to showcase this rich cuisine, with family recipes passed me down from my grandmother and mother, with personal stories from home. I hope to pass this rich legacy to the next generations with my cookery book and inspire folks to enjoy authentic Turkish cuisine.
Thank you for introducing me to Antakya cuisine! Are there certain defining features of Turkish cuisine?
Turkish cuisine is diverse, wholesome, and comes with thousands of years of heritage. It is based on seasonal produce, [and] offers wholesome options for vegetarians, as well as meat eaters. Mezes are important as we love sharing.
Vegetables cooked in olive oil, Zeytinyaglis, is another important category, where we poach vegetables with little water and olive oil. Wholegrains, such as bulgur and freekeh, are featured often and dishes are mildly flavoured with spices, olive oil, [and] natural condiments. Lamb has been a traditional meat of choice, but beef, chicken, mutton are widely eaten too, along with fish.
What dishes can we expect to make from the pages of Ozlem’s Turkish Table?
I love Turkish breakfast and there is a generous section [in] my cookery book – Menemen, Turkish style scrambled eggs with vegetables, for instance, can be an all-day enjoyable dish, easy to make.
Turkish meatballs and vegetables casserole is [a] one-pot easy-to-make healthy meal, also freezer friendly. We love dried fruits in Turkish cuisine and baked dried apricots with walnuts is a lovely, easy-to-make dessert.
I’m hungry now! Do you have a favorite recipe from the book?
With my roots going back to southern Turkey, I love my hometown Antakya’s Mercimekli Mualla, Aubergines, peppers, and lentils cooked in olive oil from my cookery book. A delicious plant-based dish that one can prepare ahead – it tastes even better the next day!
You stay true to your roots, and I love that. Can you please share your first food-related memories? Was food a source of comfort growing up?
I was born and raised in Turkey and lived in this magical land over 30 years and feel very lucky to be a part of our rich and welcoming Turkish culture. Food has always been a huge part of my childhood; I spent many happy childhood holidays at my grandmother’s 450-year-old home in ancient Antioch in Turkey, where we all helped preparing and shopping for food and sharing with others.
My mother’s father, Suphi, was a food merchant, trading fresh and dried produce within the city and across the border in Syria. I grew up with an abundance of fresh produce and remember the excitement of grandpa delivering cases of figs, aubergines, tomatoes, etc., which we always shared with our friends and neighbors.
My grandma would always place a spare few plates on the table as someone would always turn up unannounced and would be warmly welcomed to our table. I think it is this love of sharing, generosity, and Turkish hospitality that stayed [with] me the most, one of my fondest memories.
What do you wish more people knew about Turkish cuisine?
As a food writer and cookery teacher, my passion is to show food lovers how easy, healthy, and delicious Turkish cuisine is. More and more people are discovering this. As we all live busy lives, I also try to showcase the practical side of Turkish cuisine too, as most dishes can be prepared ahead and freezer friendly – we are getting there.
You are fundraising for victims of the recent earthquake in Turkey. Please share a bit about the initiative.
The unfortunate earthquake caused a huge, devastating damage at South East Turkey, including my hometown, ancient Antakya. It was heartbreaking.
I have been very grateful to run a successful fundraiser with the support of my publisher, GB Publishing. We donated 100 % of sales of signed copies of my cookery book, raised almost £8,500, and the money was donated to Turkey Mozaik Foundation with funds going directly to SE Turkey, the earthquake zone.
It was a comfort to be able to give back to this special land and its people. We still give back 25% of sales of my book to the charities for earthquake relief. It will be a long journey to recovery and every effort will help the region.
Thank you for making a difference, Ozlem Warren. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? More books? Returning to Turkey?
I plan to write more books, as Turkish cuisine is so rich and diverse, and keep on teaching Turkish cookery, [and] continue publishing my articles as a food writer.
I also love hosting culinary and cultural tours to Turkey. More on that will follow in the near future too.
Exciting! Earlier, you mentioned teaching cooking classes. Where can we sign up?
I love teaching Turkish cookery and announce my upcoming classes at my blog, Ozlem’s Turkish Table. I also have done a few YouTube videos; folks can access those through my blog too.
Get the book Ozlem’s Turkish Table and support Turkey earthquake relief efforts
Get a signed copy of the cookbook through GB Publishing. For these signed copies, 25% of sales go to Turkey earthquake relief.
The book is also available through Amazon and other major bookstores online. Please note: The relief initiative only applies to the signed copies purchased through the publisher’s site, not on the other platforms.
Connect online with Ozlem Warren
As Ozlem explained to me, she is very active on social media and loves the interaction with food lovers. Find her at the Ozlem’s Turkish Table Facebook page, as well as on Instagram at @ozlems_turkish_table
“Many thanks for having me. I hope this article inspires others to follow their passion and give back to others.” – Ozlem Warren